Monday, November 29, 2010

Cassel and Bowe have answered the call

It's time we give credit where credit is due. Matt Cassel and Dwayne Bowe have answered the call.

This may be a surprise for some of you, but guess what? The Chiefs are 7-4 after blowing out their last two opponents and find themselves all alone atop the AFC West. The team has a young, rejuvenated defense that is making plays and the league's best rushing attack. Yet, somehow, after a 42-24 spanking handed to the Seahawks in Seattle, the talk in Kansas City this week will be Cassel and Bowe.

And get this — the "talk" won't be of the usual, negative sort.

Yes, it was just three weeks ago this very blog called out the leaders of the Chiefs' passing-attack after an embarrassing blowout-loss in Denver left the team out of first-place with plenty of bloated statistics to go around. Cassel threw four touchdown passes and set a career-high for passing yards while Bowe set new personal bests for catches and yards in the game.

The team, however, lost by 20.

This past Sunday, on the other hand, was a completely different story. Cassel connected on 22 of 32 pass attempts for a modest 233 yards. Mix in four more touchdown passes and no interceptions, though, and you'll find the performance was nearly flawless. For Cassel and the Chiefs, though, the most important part was a masterful opening drive, including three connections to Bowe (one in the endzone) that set the tone for the game.

A week before against an overmatched Cardinals team at Arrowhead, Cassel looked nearly as impressive in leading his team to victory. Altogether, his 22 to four touchdown to interception ratio on the season is second only to Tom Brady's 23 to four (Michael Vick's partial-season 13 to one mark notwithstanding). In fact, since the Colts game in early October, Cassel has an absolutely remarkable 18 touchdown passes to go along with just one pick.

Bowe's rise has been more gradual, yet possibly even more impressive. Since his would-have-been game-winning drop in Oakland a month ago, the fourth-year receiver has more than taken a step forward. His stat line from that three-game span — 32 receptions for 465 yards and seven touchdowns — is outstanding, but it doesn't exactly tell the whole story. What's been more telling is Cassel's dependency on Bowe in key third-down situations and in the redzone — where games are decided — and the receiver's ability to come through, as we saw Sunday.

Overall, Bowe's 14 touchdown catches on the season has already set a new franchise-high with five games remaining.

Together, the tandem has helped Chiefs fans forget about the ugly truth that was ten victories in the three previous seasons combined, all the while making dreams of a deep playoff-run this season a little closer to reality.

Talks of Cassel being nothing more than the ultimate game-manager have gone by the wayside, and this is with a platoon of serviceable-at-best number-two receivers (Verron Tucker, Terrance Copper, and Chris Chambers) alongside Bowe. It's also easy to forget the team has been without its playmaking, rookie-sensation slot-receiver, Dexter McCluster for over a month.

Coming into 2010, Bowe was seen as nothing more than another underachieving former first-round draft pick who talked too much. With the recent professionalism on and off the field, though, he has just about closed the door on the days of mistakenly referring to his team's owner's family as "the Clarks" and venting to reporters about women being imported to the players — the likes of which make current coaches and teammates cringe.

The two have certainly exceeded expectations, but let's leave the empty statistics and meaningless Pro Bowl debate for the Denvers and Cincinattis of the world. For Cassel and Bowe, let's allow the Chiefs' 2010 season thus-far be defined by two facts — a 7-4 record and a first-place standing.

The Chargers are just a game off the pace, seemingly breathing down the Chiefs' collective neck, setting up a monster-of-a-game in San Diego in two weeks. The Broncos come to Arrowhead this Sunday. It seems almost unfair that the team's accomplishments so far, led by Cassel and Bowe of late, would mean next to nothing in this city unless the team is playing games in January.

The tandem can ill-afford to let up. If this tale is to have a happy ending, they won't.


  1. Great piece, Eli.

    I am excited to have meaningful (and exciting) football games back in Kansas City! I am taking this 2010 season w/ a grain of salt, I figure that this plan is a good 2 years ahead of schedule, being in a playoff chase (granted, in a "down" AFC WEST) is simply a bonus.

    Cassel and Bowe have both shown BIGTIME improvement-- But, let's see how this pair fares in San Diego, especially if a clutch reception is required in the waning moments to keep San Diego's offense on the sidelines. I will have to see it to believe it.....

  2. Yeah, regardless of how this plays out, the Chiefs are obviously on the right track, and they are very exciting to watch (what a refresher from the Herm days).

    I know what you mean about Bowe and having to see it to believe it. I still have it in the back of my head that this team will revert back to its old ways down the stretch with a playoff spot on the line. I hope I'm wrong.

  3. Nice work, Eli.

    I was one of Cassel's biggest critics going into this year, and even in the early games he showed the same mistakes and lack of composure he demonstrated throughout the duration of last year. Somewhere along the way, though, something clicked, and the last two weeks we've seen a calm, collected leader who progresses through his reads and throws with confidence. I would love nothing more than to have been completely wrong about Cassel when it's all said and done.

    Bowe is a different story, because evidence of his crazy talent has been there from the start. He drove me nuts (along with the entire Chiefs fanbase, I'm sure) with his key drops against Indy and Oakland. Drops have been a problem throughout his career, but it seems that he finally has his head on straight, is in the best shape of his life, and has bought into coach Haley's philosophy at long last.

    Like others have said, I'm pumped for meaningful football games in December again, regardless of the end result. Let's win this division!